Beware buggy sting season

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With spring coming, we need to be aware of all the “dangerous” bugs that may get in our homes. Two common pests in the Albuquerque area are scorpions and centipedes. How dangerous are they? There are 26 species of scorpions in New Mexico. Only one species, the bark scorpion (Centruroides sculpturatus) is potentially dangerous. It has killed a few people in Arizona, but not in the last 40 years and has never killed anyone in New Mexico. In fact, there is no record of anyone ever dying from a scorpion sting in New Mexico.

With spring coming, we need to be aware of all the “dangerous” bugs that may get in our homes. Two common pests in the Albuquerque area are scorpions and centipedes. How dangerous are they? There are 26 species of scorpions in New Mexico. Only one species, the bark scorpion (Centruroides sculpturatus) is potentially dangerous. It has killed a few people in Arizona, but not in the last 40 years and has never killed anyone in New Mexico. In fact, there is no record of anyone ever dying from a scorpion sting in New Mexico.

The bark scorpion is found in the southwest portion of the state, in the areas of Silver City and Lordsburg. There are three species of scorpions in the Socorro County area. On the west side of the river we have the Utah sand scorpion (Paruroctonus utahensis) and the Coahuila scorpion (Vaejovis coahuilae). The Utah sand scorpion prefers open areas while the Coahuila scorpion is a frequent visitor in homes. Neither is dangerous, although they can both give painful stings.

The striped scorpion (Centruroides vittatus) lives in the foothills near the Manzano Mountains and is very rarely found on the west side of the river. It is not dangerous either. There is one rare scorpion found in the forests around Los Alamos that has an interesting name. It is Vaejovis fagerlundi. Dr. David Sissom, who described it, named it after me.

There are over a 100 species of centipedes in New Mexico, but most of them are very small and belong to two suborders. They are the stone centipedes (Lithobiomorpha) and the soil centipedes (Geophilomorpha).

Stone centipedes are about an inch long and have 15 pair of legs. Soil centipedes aren’t much longer and have upwards of 40 pair of legs. Neither group is capable of biting people. Both are common in yards and feed on small bugs, including some pests, so they can be considered beneficial. House centipedes (Scutigera coleoptrata) are about an inch long and have 15 pair of very long legs. They are common all over New Mexico and are often found in homes. They rarely bite and they do feed on such pests as spiders, bed bugs, termites, cockroaches, ants and silverfish, so they should probably be welcome in the home.

Three species of Scolopendromorpha centipedes are found in New Mexico. The desert centipede (Scolopendra polymorpha) is most common throughout the state and is frequently encountered in the Albuquerque area. It is about three or four inches long. The green centipede (Scolopendra viridis) is found in the mountainous areas. It is only a couple of inches long. The giant desert centipede (Scolopendra heros) is found in the southern and eastern portions of the state.

I have found it a couple of times in Socorro and Albuquerque, so it is undoubtedly found in Valencia County as well. This species can reach a length of 6.5 inches and is capable of killing and eating mice. All of the Scolopendra have painful bites, but they are not dangerous. Nobody has ever died from a centipede bite in the United States. There have been some isolated cases of centipedes killing people in Asia, but they have a very large species over there.

Although scorpions and centipedes aren’t dangerous, most people don’t want to share their homes with them. Exclusion to keep them out of structures is most important. You should carefully examine the entire exterior, including up to the eaves as scorpions and centipedes may crawl up rough surfaces, and you want to permanently fill in any openings found and ensure all vent screens are in place and in good condition.

In the yard you can eliminate many potential harborage sites for them, such as rocks, boards and other objects resting on the soil. Firewood should be stacked on racks off the soil and away from the house. You can put diatomaceous earth in any areas where you suspect scorpions and other pests are hiding. If you find a scorpion or centipede in your home, spray it with some Greenbug for Indoors, which is absolutely safe. It is available online at www.greenbugallnatural.com.

One reference I used is “An Annotated Checklist of the Soil Centipedes (Geophilomorpha) and Stone Centipedes (Lithobiomorpha) of North America, including the United States, Canada and Mexico” I wrote this paper when I was working at UNM as a pest management specialist and Board Certified Entomologist. I am available for pest management consulting and termite inspections. Contact me at askthebugman@yahoo.com or at 385-2820.